10 things to know about Sahara chief Subrata Roy
Subrata Roy, the chairman and self-described "managing worker" of the unlisted Sahara conglomerate, started with capital of Rs 2,000 in the late 1970s and eventually built his company into a giant that, according to its website, has assets currently of more than $11 billion or Rs 68,000 crore.
The company's full name is Sahara India Pariwar. Roy, 65, refers to himself as the guardian of the world's largest family, and espouses a philosophy of "collective materialism".
The company says it helps small investors outside the banking system and that it has never defaulted on them.
At the Sahara headquarters in Lucknow, staff greet visitors by putting their right hand to their chest and saying "Sahara Pranam."
Roy, often photographed wearing a black necktie and vest over a white shirt, is based nearby at the showpiece Sahara Shaher, a sprawling gated complex of low white buildings and lawns where he lives and where the group holds an annual mass wedding for 101 couples who could otherwise not afford it.
Roy is often described as a billionaire but he is not on the Forbes list of rich Indians. Sahara's website says no dividend has been paid for 34 years and no profit has been taken out of the company.
Roy is not typically bracketed with a corporate elite led by families such as the Tatas, Birlas and Ambanis. "If you look at the orthodox business community, they have kept him at arm's length," said Ashok Prasad, a physician, lawyer and academic who taught overseas before returning to Gorakhpur, the city where Roy started out.
Instead, Roy is associated with Bollywood celebrities and, like many tycoons, is seen as having good political connections.
Sahara owns New York's landmark Plaza Hotel and London's iconic Grosvenor House hotel. The group sponsors the Indian hockey team and owns 42 per cent stake in the Formula One racing team, Force India. It became a household name in the country through its lead sponsorship of the national cricket team, which ended in December 2013.
Critics, including activist groups, say Sahara's investment products are designed to evade oversight by financial regulators and that it lacks transparency on the source and use of its funds, selling products to investors who do not understand the risks and ploughing the proceeds into real estate projects.
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